imagine a white raven (fourseat) wrote in linguaphiles,
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Research for a paper on American Yiddish

edit: Data collection is now over and the paper is being written. Thanks to all who answered for your help! Once the flurry of writing is over I can talk results to anyone interested.

Hey, American English speakers!
I'm doing research for a paper on the incorporation of a few Yiddish words into the American lexicon. I'm hoping to prove that the words have different shades of meaning depending on how many Jewish people the speaker knows (using Milroy-style network density measurements). I'd love your help! If you'd rather email your answers, direct them to yiddishstudy AT gmail DOT com.

The General Stuff
1. What is your age?
2. Where do you live?
3. What gender are you?
4. What is your religion?

Network Strength/Identity
If you are Jewish....
a. What is your religious background/how were you raised? Did Yiddish play a part in your upbringing?
b. What denomination (if any) would you consider yourself now? Does Yiddish play a part in your religious identity? What about your cultural identity?
c. If applicable, what religion is your spouse/partner/significant other?
d. Do you have children? If so, in what religion are you raising them?

If you are not Jewish...
e. Did you grow up in or near any Jewish presence? Give one or two sentences to explain.
f. Is there a Jewish presence where you currently...
go to school?
spend social/leisure time?
If yes to any of these questions, how strong or influential is the Jewish presence?
g. If applicable, is your spouse/SO/partner Jewish?

And now, the words...

For each of the Yiddish words provided, please answer each of the following questions:

1. Do you know this word? If so, do you know it by any other spellings or pronunciations?
2. What is the first definition you think of for this word? (Each word will be presented with three alternatives; if your definition doesn't match, answer "other" and explain.)
3. Does this word have any connotations: positive, negative, other?
4. How often would you use this word?
5. Who do you use this word around? (Friend, family, boss, only Jewish friends, only non-Jewish friends, the mail carrier.....?)

My apologies: a few of the definitions are less than savory. Yiddish wouldn't be the same without a good curse, after all. ;)

The words are:

schmooze [ʃmuz]
Is it:
1. verb: to chat aimlessly, pass time, chew the fat ("We sat around schmoozing for hours"); noun: such a chat ("We had a schmooze with the Goldbergs yesterday")
2. verb, transitive: to ingratiate oneself, suck up, or butter someone up with hopes of personal benefit ("He's schmoozing the boss because he wants a raise"); noun, one who does so ("That guy's such a schmooze. Look at him talking to the boss")
3. verb, to network ("I spent the night schmoozing and got the business cards of all the CEOs")
4. other

shiksa ['ʃIk sə]
Is it:
1. noun: a word for a Jewish girl ("My English teacher is Irish and Jewish. She calls herself a 'Shillelagh Shiksa.'")
2. noun: a word for a non-Jewish girl ("I have some nice shiksa friends at Brandeis.")
3. noun: a nasty word for a non-Jewish girl ("You're marrying a shiksa?")
4. other

kibitz ['kIb Its]
Is it:
1. verb: to give unwanted advice, usually criticism ("It would have been such a nice concert if my shlemiel of a husband hadn't spent the whole time kibitzing about how he could do it better.")
2. verb: to make idle chatter ("We sat around kibitzing for hours.")
3. verb: to gossip ("We kibitzed about all our old friends...")
4. other

schmuck [ʃmʌk]
Is it:
1. noun: a useless person or thing ("That Avram is such a schmuck. All he ever does is drink beer in front of the TV")
2. noun: the penis or foreskin; "prick" when referring to a person ("That schmuck dumped his wife for a 25-year-old")
3. noun: a jerk ("All the boys at school are schmucks")
4. other

If you know any other Yiddish words that have different meanings, please let me know the word, the meaning, and who uses it differently.

That's it. Thanks so much for helping out!

xposted: linguaphiles, weirdjews, brandeis

p.s. have a lovely holiday/post-holiday season. :)

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